Apparently there was an atheism vs. God debate between Chris Hedges and Christopher Hitchens last week. Hedges took a liberal Christian view, while Hitchens took the crusading Islamophobic atheist position.
It doesn’t sound like it was all that illuminating, however. Perhaps it’s selective reporting that reduces participants to stereotypes. Nevertheless, in the story, Hedges and Hitchens both seem to represent classic forms of boneheadedness. Hedges comes across as woolly-headed liberal religionist who uses supernatural language but has difficulty extracting concrete claims from a soup of metaphors, metaphysics, and exalted feelings. Hitchens, on the other hand, appears in the role of professional asshole: a mirror image of a fundamentalist religious stereotype both in pugnacious attitude and dogmatic certainty.
I’ll take the easy way out and blame the mass media once again. As always, they’re interested in spectacle above all. So even if it may feel good at first to have some atheists rise to public prominence, it gives me pause to see that leading the pack are Sam Harris and now Christopher Hitchens, and that the media may like them precisely because they easily fit the image of sharp-tongued bigotry that atheism is supposed to display. Some in the nonbelieving choir may applaud the opportunity for public venting, but I suspect that overall the effect of Harris, Hitchens etc. on most religious people is comforting. They just reinforce the prejudice that nonbelief is a shallow, reactive stance, and that moderate religiosity remains unchallenged as the pinnacle of thoughtful respectability.